We all understand that lips should be used to pronounce certain words, which emphasizes that it is also necessary to strengthen the muscles around the lips. Lip exercises help strengthen the muscles around the mouth, improving oral motor skills and enhancing the overall articulation abilities of an individual. During speech and language development, lip exercises provide coordination and control in producing a wide range of speech sounds.
Why are lip exercises important?
Here are some reasons that indicate the importance of lip exercises in speech and language development.
Some specific speech sounds, such as bilabial sounds (e.g., /p/, /b/, /m/) need synchronized lip movements. Practicing lip exercises can improve the ability to form such specific speed sounds perfectly. These lip sizes strengthen the muscles around the lips, which enhances the accuracy and clarity of speech articulation.
Oral motor skills:
Oral motor skills are necessary for various speech-related activities, such as speaking, swallowing, and eating. Lip exercises can improve the ability of oral motor skills. An individual with effective oral motor skills can produce a wide range of sounds and can acquire better language skills.
Lip exercises help to achieve better muscle coordination and control over the lip moments during speech production. With enhanced coordination, accurate speech sounds are produced. The transition between speech sounds and words will be as smooth as possible.
Facial expressions play a remarkable role in nonverbal communication. Lip exercises help in enhancing facial muscle strength. Having strong and flexible lip muscles, an individual will be able to communicate effectively through facial expressions and gestures.
Overall Communication skills:
Lip exercises strengthen the muscles around the lips which create a positive impact on overall communication skills. With strong lip muscles, articulation, oral motor control, and facial muscle strength can be improved. This, in turn, boosts confidence in communication and interpersonal interactions. As lip exercises gain control over facial muscles, the facial expressions can be in a controlled manner, enhancing social engagement.
For those who are facing speech and language difficulties, it is highly recommended to work with a speech-language pathologist or a healthcare professional specialized in speech therapy. These professionals are trained in providing scientifically proven speech-related therapies, activities, and techniques according to the needs of the individual. These targeted custom-tailored lip exercises and personalized support can help improve the speech and language difficulties of the individual.
Guidelines in using the materials
- All the materials for lip exercises should be handled and placed by an adult, such as a speech therapist, teacher, assistant, parent, or caregiver.
- Ensure that these objects should be placed in between the lips but not the teeth
- While placing the objects, make sure that the object is brought horizontally to the mouth and that the child’s head stays aligned. There should not be any forward movement of the head or torso.
- Repeat these exercises with the child at least once a day for speech improvement.
- Make sure you begin at the appropriate level of difficulty for your child which is neither easy nor difficult.
Techniques that improve lip movements
Lip rounding for /aaa/:
Using a mirror or a mobile recording for visual feedback, you can model by saying /a/. This will help the child to understand to what extent the lips are moved.
Smile with a wide grin produce /e/, and hold on up to 3 seconds. Relax and repeat five times.
- Pout your lips to produce /u/. Hold this up to 3 seconds, relax, and repeat five times.
- Also, practice /u/ and /o/ for lip protrusion.
- Pout your lips and suck the cheeks to make a “fish face.”
- Ask your child to pout and blow. This strengthens the lips.
Lip closure exercises:
Strengthen and tone the lip muscles so that they remain closed in the rest position. Improve lip closure while pronouncing /p/, /b/, /m/ in words and sentences.
Aim the closed mouth position by using various cloths of varying textures and temperatures, massage around the child’s lips. You can use materials like a toothbrush, cotton swab, tongue depressor, spoon, etc. Stroke the lips gently in a horizontal position. Repeat this five times.
Pressing with Lips:
Creating lip awareness:
Using a craft stick or gloved finger, smear the peanut butter all over the child’s lips. Ask the child to press his/her lips together so that the peanut butter can be felt on the lips.
Make the child press his/her lips tightly together for 2-3 seconds. Relax and repeat 5 times.
Place a toothette between your child’s lips. Ask your child to press and hold it with lips without falling off till you count five. Repeat this five times.
Place a toothette between your child’s lips. Have him/her press the lips for a few seconds and relax them. Repeat this 5 times.
Holding with Lips:
Place a tongue depressor between your child’s lips. Ask the child to hold it with only lips in place until you count five. Work up to one minute, increasing in five-second increments.
Lip resistance with tongue depressor:
Holding the tongue depressor with both of your hands, place it between your child’s lips. Ask your child to keep his lips closed and meanwhile, you try to push the tongue depressor up and down against his lips. Repeat this five times.
Tongue-depressor-hold with fine motor activity:
Have a child hold a tongue depressor with his/her lips, and while doing so, have the child perform an activity with hands. You can start with something short and easy, such as putting cotton balls into a cup, touching circles on the page, or maybe stacking the blocks. You can slowly increase the level of difficulty by increasing the length and complexity of this motor task.
Holding a popsicle/increasing the weight
To strengthen your child’s lip muscles, make the child hold an ice cream stick with his/her lips. You can gradually increase the weight on either side by sticking a small coin. As practice goes by, you can slowly increase the weight to three coins.
Button pull is an excellent exercise to increase lip strength. Thread a nickel-sized button with dental floss and tie the ends together. Place the button vertically behind the child’s lips, in front of her teeth. Pull the dental floss hard enough to provide resistance while the child holds her lips around the button. Repeat this ten times. To increase the difficulty, you may use smaller buttons, but you need to be very careful.
The activity of blowing improves the strength of lip muscles and also enhances breath control. Blowing soap bubbles, thermocol balls, feathers, paper bits, and even blowing candles can help you practice this exercise well.
Using a spirometer gives good visual feedback on how extent child is able to blow. A spirometer can also encourage the child to blow more.
Train horn/ trumpet:
Place a train horn or a toy horn between the child’s lips. Make him/her blow five times. If there is no sound from the horn or if cheek puffing happens, ask the child to press down harder with the lips. You can also model a variety of tooting patterns, like blowing short and long alternately, to make a rhythm.
You can also use a windmill whistle to make the child blow, as its sound would inspire the child to do more. Make your child blow a windmill whistle with a long, slow, and easy breath. With the sound of the whistle’s shrill, you would know if the child is blowing too hard or too low. It is better to start with a three-second blow and increase it to five seconds.
Chewing with closed lips:
Offer your child a small bite of his/her favorite crunchy food, but keep a condition that the lips should be closed as his/her chews. Doing 10 chews per bite for five bites is necessary. You can use crunchy foods like cookies, crackers, chips, or maybe an apple.
Have your child hum a favorite song. But make sure his/her lips stay closed throughout the song. Practice this exercise for once in a day.
Lip Rounding Exercises:
Lip rounding exercises would strengthen and tone the lip muscles. This, in turn, promotes lip rounding and thus improves tongue retraction.
Associating the lip-rounding exercises with the speech sound /w/, can strengthen and tone lip musculature. This helps in the rapid movement of lips while speaking in words, phrases, and even in sentences.
Place are toothette between the child’s rounded lips and twirl the stick. This activity creates an awareness of the rounded lips for the child.
Place a trumpet between the child’s lips and make him or her blow it. You can hold the horn and make him/her blow three times. This horn requires a tighter and smaller rounding of the lips. A strong initial burst of air is necessary to make a sound. If cheek puffing occurs, encourage the child to take in more air and blow by pressing the lips firmly.
Use the windmill to have the child blow on it. Do not let the child mouth its whistle. Blowing Windmill promotes unassisted lip rounding.
Encourage the child to try whistling. You can model by whistling for him or her using tight, round lips.
This exercise promotes the awareness of oral airstream. You can start by placing one end of the magic flute in the child’s mouth and having him/her blow through the flute. While doing so, you can bend and flex the flute to different parts of his face. You can tell the child to feel the air on his eyes, cheeks, hair, etc.
Saying Oo,Oo, Oo:
Have you a child round his/her lips and say Oo,Oo, Oo. You can have the child suck water using a straw, and after each suck, make him/her say Oo,Oo, Oo (as in Moo)
Blow a bubble:
For this exercise, you should blow a bubble and catch it on the bubble wand. Ask the child to use a magic flute to blow the bubble off the wand/straw. Then, have the child blow bubbles off the wand without using the magic flute. Let the child repeat this until he is successful.
Have your child sit in a relaxed position with good posture. Make sure the child’s lips are closed, and place the handle of a toothbrush vertically against the lips, pressing them. Now, ask the child to push the toothbrush handle by pucking her lips. Repeat this exercise five times.
Take a magic flute and place a cotton ball at the other end of it. Make the child suck through the magic flute in order to keep the cotton ball for at least 3 to 5 seconds on the other end. Begin by holding the cotton ball at mouth level. Gradually increase the difficulty by having him pick it off the table and bring it up to mouth level.
You can suggest the child suck using examples like “pretend you are drinking milk” if the child blows instead of sucking. To introduce a variation, you can use a mini Marshmallow or a small square of paper instead of a cotton ball.
On a paper plate, place a big spoonful of apple sauce or pudding. Place a straw between the child’s lips and ask the child to suck the food till it is completed. Repeat if the child does it fast. You can begin with short and wide straws and increase the level of difficulty by using thinner and longer straws. You may also try using a variety of straws with different twists and turns.
All these lip exercises enhance the strength of lip muscles, which promotes better control and coordination while producing speech sounds. These lip exercises would also train your child to control the flow of air through the mouth while making certain speech sounds and words. With this, learning would be easier and interesting for the kid. Taking the help of a professional like a speech and language pathologist in making your child practice such exercises would help a lot. They are trained professionals who can design a targeted custom-tailored therapy plan with scientifically proven methods for your child.